Rushkoff's Rules for the Digital Age

We talk with big thinker Douglas Rushkoff about his “ten commands” for living right in the digital age.

The digital world around us – Facebook, Google, and all the rest – has grown so big, so fast, that people come to think of it as a given, like gravity or the speed of light. Of course, it’s not. The digital world is thoroughly engineered, by human hands, and for human ends, like making money.

Big media critic and theorist Douglas Rushkoff wants to be sure we don’t forget that. Otherwise, he warns, as lives migrate to the digital realm, we run the risk of being slaves, not masters, of its power.

And the thing that gets programmed may be us.

-Tom Ashbrook


26493_rushkoff_douglasDouglas Rushkoff, teacher of media studies at NYU and The New School University and author of many books on technology, media, and society, including “Cyberia,” “Media Virus,” “Coercion,” “Nothing Sacred,” “Get Back in the Box,” and the novel “Ecstasy Club.” You can link to our last discussion with him, in 2009, of his book “Life Inc.” His new book is “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commandments for the Digital Age.” You can read an excerpt.

Here are Rushkoff’s “10 commands,” as summarized by

10 biases of digital media/commands

1. Time. Thou shall not be always on. We are turning an asynchronous net as always on. He encouraged saying “My time is mine.”

2. Distance. Thou shalt not do from a distance what can be done in person. Using long distance in short distance situations. Don’t use distance learning in localized context.

3. Scale – the Internet is biased to scale up. Exalt the particular. Not everything scales, should scale or needs to scale.

4. Discrete – everything is a choice. You may always choose none of the above. Sites like Facebook promote forced choice, you have to choose from a set of options.

5. Complexity – the net reduces complexity. Thou shalt never be completely right.

6. Non-corporeal – out of body. Thou shalt not be anonymous. Rushkoff says “work against tendency of the net to promote anonymity.” Anonymity encourages becoming part of polarized mobs with no sense of consequence, it side steps prejudices. It is liberating to promote yourself online.

7. Contact is king (not content). Remember the humans. “Social marketing is an oxymoron.”

8. Abstraction – as above, so not below. Print abstracts text from the scribe. Hypertext takes it a step further.

9. Openness. Thou shalt not steal. When there is no social contract, openness can continue until there is no one left to give things away. Nothing is free.

10. End users – technology is biased toward consumers. Programmed or be programmed.

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